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NEWS
December 21, 2013 | By Andrew Maykuth, Inquirer Staff Writer
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Thursday struck down provisions of the state's Oil and Gas Act that stripped municipalities of the power to determine where natural gas drilling activity could occur within their boundaries. The long-awaited decision is a blow to a 2012 law known as Act 13 that was promoted by Gov. Corbett and the Marcellus Shale natural gas industry as a means to create a uniform statewide standard for gas development. By a 4-2 vote, the court ruled that the zoning provisions in the law were unconstitutional, though the court disagreed on the grounds for striking down the law. "The bottom line is that the majority of the court agreed that Act 13 is unconstitutional, and that local governments can zone oil and gas drilling like they do other activities," said Jordan B. Yeager, a Doylestown environmental lawyer who argued the case on behalf of several municipalities.
NEWS
December 19, 2013 | By Angela Couloumbis, Inquirer Harrisburg Bureau
HARRISBURG - Pennsylvania officials were trying to make sense Tuesday of a state Supreme Court ruling that struck down key pieces of the state's Megan's Law. On its face, the high court's decision, released late Monday afternoon, appeared ominous for landmark legislation passed in 2004 that established stricter registering and reporting guidelines for sex offenders. But attorneys for the legislature, as well as law enforcement officials, said Megan's Law will remain in effect even in the face of the court's decision.
NEWS
December 5, 2013
A MASSACHUSETTS law that says that "no person" may enter or remain in the 35-foot buffer zones established outside abortion clinics in the state has set off a controversial legal battle about the proper balance between the rights of speakers and the rights of those who must listen to them. Although several federal courts have upheld the law over the past few years, the Supreme Court has now agreed to review it. The high court should uphold it as well. The petitioners, including a grandmother in her 70s who stands outside abortion clinics hoping to talk to women on their way in, claim that the law is an impermissible infringement on their right to express their opinion.
NEWS
November 20, 2013 | By Maddie Hanna, Inquirer Trenton Bureau
TRENTON Judge Faustino Fernandez-Vina of Camden County won unanimous approval Monday from the New Jersey Senate to serve on the state Supreme Court. The Superior Court assignment judge is to be sworn in Tuesday and will participate in oral arguments later in the morning, court officials said. Fernandez-Vina, who the Christie administration said is a Republican, replaces Republican Helen Hoens on the seven-member court, which has two vacancies. In August, Gov. Christie announced that he would not renominate Hoens amid a battle with the Legislature's majority Democrats over the court's partisan balance, and nominated Fernandez-Vina.
NEWS
November 7, 2013 | By Jeremy Roebuck, Inquirer Staff Writer
LANSDALE Flabbergasted was the word U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. used Tuesday to describe his reaction to federal prosecutors' decision to classify as a chemical-weapons attack a Lansdale woman's attempt to poison her romantic rival. Other justices shared his disbelief. And lawyer Eric Reed, for one, wasn't at all surprised. "Bad cases make bad law," he said. "It was something we tried to impart on prosecutors years ago, but they didn't listen. Now, look where we're at. " Reed represented Carol Anne Bond six years ago during her prosecution under a law enacted to bring the United States in line with an international chemical-weapons treaty.
NEWS
November 7, 2013 | By Amy Worden, Inquirer Harrisburg Bureau
HARRISBURG - Voters on Tuesday sent Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille back to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court for a third term. Castille, 69, will serve only one year of his 10-year term, because the mandatory retirement age for jurists is 70. His Democratic colleague, Max Baer, also returns to the high court for another 10-year term, although, barring a constitutional change, he will be required to retire in 2017, when he turns 70. In the only...
NEWS
November 6, 2013 | By Jeremy Roebuck, Inquirer Staff Writer
A tale of poison, payback, and one pregnant paramour heads back to the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday, as justices are set to hear oral arguments in the case of a Lansdale woman whose attempts to kill her husband's mistress landed her on the wrong side of U.S. antiterrorism law. Carol Anne Bond, 42, admits she tried to poison her romantic rival seven years ago by spreading toxic chemicals around the woman's Norristown home. But, she argues, federal prosecutors in Philadelphia overreacted by inflating what was essentially a domestic drama into a federal crime tied to a 1997 chemical weapons treaty.
NEWS
November 2, 2013
Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille hasn't had the luxury of ignoring the state's most troubled courts. He presides over one of them. In the past year alone, one of the high court's recently deposed justices, Joan Orie Melvin, was sentenced to house arrest for misusing state staff. A sitting justice, Seamus P. McCaffery, is under federal scrutiny related to referral fees paid to his wife, who is also a lawyer and his top aide. McCaffery denies any wrongdoing and has been engaged in more or less open hostilities with Castille over the fees and other issues.
NEWS
October 30, 2013 | By Mark Fazlollah, Inquirer Staff Writer
Saying there is "serious uncertainty" that former Traffic Court Judge Michael Lowry will be convicted in a federal corruption case, the state's Court of Judicial Discipline has ruled that Lowry should be paid his full salary while he fights criminal charges. The decision, issued Friday, saying Lowry should be paid his $91,052 salary is the disciplinary court's third ruling in appeals by indicted Traffic Court judges seeking to win back pay. On Feb. 1, two days after the federal indictments, the state Supreme Court dismissed the judges without pay. Lowry's civil lawyer, Samuel C. Stretton, said he will petition the state Supreme Court to restore Lowry's salary and back pay dating to Feb. 1. Lowry, who faces fraud and perjury charges, and eight other former Traffic Court judges were charged in a 77-count indictment.
NEWS
October 29, 2013 | By Claudia Vargas, Inquirer Staff Writer
When it comes to crime in the City of Brotherly Love, should public corruption or gun violence be the priority for the District Attorney's Office? As the race for that office nears in the Nov. 5 election, incumbent Seth Williams and Republican challenger Danny Alvarez have sparred over that question. During a recent debate and in interviews, Williams, who ran on a "smart on crime" campaign four years ago, told of his efforts to transform the office's ways by having more diversionary programs and focusing on prosecuting what he sees as the most important cases - those dealing with gun violence.
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